Here’s what I find compelling about cancer, covid, the fires, the political mess we’re in. They’re like mirrors in that I get to see what I’ve always believed that I might not have questioned because I’ve taken it to be true for 1,000 years. The other day I realized a bedrock belief that I’m not sure I ever named: I’m not supposed to be joyful, to be or have enough and that if I am, I’m going to get in trouble.
When I was a child, I believed that God abandoned me. I’d pray for my parents to be happy and they got more miserable, abusive, lonely, which I took to mean that I wasn’t worth saving and something was wrong with me. This belief, by the way, is not meant to get in any discussion about God. It’s about a conviction that there will be revenge if I allow myself too much goodness. It’s about the belief that this universe is hostile and about to collapse. So when cancer appears, there is a bedrock belief that says: "See? I told you. You thought you were getting away with it but, Missy, you’re going down.”
That pattern is so mean and violent to the spirit and it lives in me until I can question it. It lives as a contraction in my stomach, as my response to “There’s a fire over the hill. You’re going to lose your house. How long did you think you could get away with loving where you live? The time has come to pay up. Misery, not joy, is your middle name.” It lives as the perpetual belief that "being vulnerable and loving is for sissies because you’re going to get smashed, so buck up and take what you can.” But as soon as I name it, there is freedom. As soon as I question it, I see that it’s not true. I see that I’ve always been taken care of, even in the most desperate moments. Even with cancer. Even this very moment, with the fires. And when I experience that, my heart opens, the world comes alive and I am available to respond to what is asking for attention (like packing for evacuation). The hardest beliefs are the ones we don’t even think of as beliefs, but as truths. We really can question everything. (The photo was taken during the radiation week in Arizona when I kept looking at those cacti and being stunned by their beauty).
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